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Is Technical Writing A Dependent Function ?

– Mridula Pradhan

If we look back at the job descriptions shared with us by recruiters, here’s what many of them say: “You’ll be working cross-functionally with other teams in the business to address knowledge gaps and create new content”. If we look at the competencies required, they chime in: “You’re collaborative and pragmatic, able to take ownership and manage stakeholders”. That says it all!

The entire purpose of having cross-functional teams is to have teams that are collaborative, yet independent of each other. In fact, a developer’s scripting/coding expertise is often limited to a single specialization or programming language, whereas a technical writer acquires experience with a range of authoring and project tracking tools (Confluence, GitHub, Jira, Markdown or similar ones – you name it, we know it!) and sometimes scripting/coding experience too. Unlike a developer, you’re not a one-trick horse, you’ve worked with a broad range of technologies and often across domains.

Are you really letting developers control you? Do you really let the software development team fix your writing? It’s actually the other way round! It’s your time, your energy and your whiz-bang writing that delivers actual product value be it the user-friendly and useful content, the help files, the user manuals that enable clients and end users to understand the product and become expert users. It’s technical writers who deliver API and SDK references and how-to guides for both highly technical audiences and non-technical user. So then let me ask you,” Where’s the dependency?”

It is the technical writers who create and own the documentation. It’s the technical writers who are responsible for its accuracy and it is the technical writers who deliver best practices around user-cantered design and user-experience design.

If you’ve found yourself dependent on a development squad that holds on to pieces of information, don’t wait for handoffs. Communicate verbally and proactively. Engage in every part of the development life-cycle. Ask to see the software requirements specifications if they’ve been documented and gather your information first-hand. You’re the one who prevents misinterpretations, you’re the reliable pillar that development teams unwittingly depend on to make their products accessible, understandable and presentable.

Technical writing isn’t a dependent function. Dependencies, if any, are self-imposed. It’s time to give up any dependencies and take the lead. In fact, it’s time for a reboot.

Welcome to the future of technical communication.

About the Author

Mridula Pradhan has 25 years of multi-faceted experience in writing and editing for both print and digital media, which includes over 15 years in writing technical and instructional content and several years collaborating with cross-functional teams across the globe, including software developers. Mridula moved to Hyderabad as a Proposal Writer with Microsoft Global Services India and is currently exploring new opportunities here.

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